The Conjuring

The Conjuring ★★★★★

James Wan's "The Conjuring" is an expertly designed, crafted, and executed horror film. With its ability to both shake and get under the skin of its audience, the film is masterfully effective and a welcome addition to the genre.

A traditional haunted house story with contemporary flourishes, the films follows a married team of paranormal investigators as they look into a house with a secret. Thanks to its rich production design, the film is rife with 1970s period details and textures. Wan's camera maneuvers over a drained color palette that both sells the era and adds a cold bit of atmosphere.

While story details are best left unspoiled, Wan is remarkable in his ability to ramp up the tension in the film. Beginning with pacing that is measured and deliberate, the film takes its time to spook its audience. Using sound, shadow and atmosphere, Wan and company chill the viewer, making it anticipate what could be around the corner or what could be under the bed. The quiet scares of the film progressively give way to more visceral shocks, leading to a climax that is devilishly unhinged.

"The Conjuring" offers horror storytelling that is layered, grownup, and does not insult the intelligence of its audience. Story events are restrained and never give in to potential horror histrionics of gore or cheap scares. Moreover, while the film focuses on its core story, threads of potential side tales are visible, making the narrative richer and more involving. All of this is undergirded by mythology and themes that serve to enhance the story even more.

Rich, atmospheric, and haunting, "The Conjuring" is a pulpy, creeping treat. Both subtly chilling and overtly jolting, the film is a piece of dread-soaked horror cinema that is remarkable on all levels. While it may lack the artfulness of "The Shining" or the pure entertainment value of "Jaws," the film may eventually deserve mention with the favorites of the genre. Right now, however, "The Conjuring" should be recognized as a wholly satisfying, contemporary horror film.

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